Seen between the late fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, dagging and slashing were decorative techniques that were used to distinguish and beautify garments. Both techniques were used on the common garments of the day to add decoration in accordance with fashion trends. In this way they were related to similar fashion trends throughout human history, such as the use of clavi, or stripes, on Roman togas and tunicas or the use of fringe on shirts in the twentieth century. Both dagging and slashing illustrated the growing importance of intricate, unique details in fashion in the Renaissance.
Dagging involved cutting a series of patterns in the edges of fabric. Those patterns, or dagges, could be long U or V shapes, or complex leaf-like designs. Beginning in the fourteenth century and proceeding well into the fifteenth century, dagges were cut into the edges of sleeves and hems of both men's and women's garments, including houppelandes, bliauts, cotes (all long gowns and robes), and virtually any outer garment.
The decorative technique known as slashing involved making small cuts in the outer fabric of a garment so as to reveal the inner lining. As with dagging, slashing was performed on all variety of garments, from men's doublets, a padded overshirt, and breeches to women's gowns and even to shoes. The practice of slashing was introduced by Swiss army troops following their defeat of Charles the Bold (1433–1477), duke of Burgundy, in 1477. As the tattered Swiss troops ransacked the villages of Burgundy, a region of present-day France, they cut up bits of tents and banners and threaded these scraps through holes in their own garments. The effect was to have brightly colored pieces of fabric poking out from underneath an outer garment. Upon their return home, wealthy people began to imitate the fashion and it soon caught on throughout Europe. Slashing remained popular in Europe through the 1500s.
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Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.